Monday, April 6, 2015

Financial Literacy...Why are we not teaching more about this in Ontario schools?

A theme that seems to keep arising in this course is the concept of making the Math tools we teach applicable and meaningful to real life.  After thinking about it, I was wondering why we do not teach more about personal finance management to our students?  Why do we not teach our students (or at least give them the option to take a course) about personal finance, learning about spending, saving, borrowing, budgeting, debt, interest, investing and things of this nature?  These are very important life skills that people should have or at least know a little bit about when getting started out in the world (whether that is in post secondary education or the workforce).  Especially in times where it our society has been on the brink of financial crises, and students are carrying more debt than ever before, these skills seem like highly necessary ones, to help prevent our youth from putting themselves in tough situations, or even financial ruin.
      In Ontario, there is no separate course which teaches about financial literacy. In 2011, a financial literacy program was introduced to integrate these types of financial skills into the curriculum from grade 4 onward (  But some teachers, such as Genevieve Tran (licensed teacher in Ontario, Masters of Education, and has taught financial literacy abroad) believe that the lack of knowledge, accountability and assessment component for this program means that students are not getting a good understanding of these issues (  I know from my own personal experience, I was not very well versed in areas when I was younger, such as getting a student loan from the bank, purchasing cars, the different types of financing there are, utilizing OSAP, interest rates on different debts and what should be paid off first etc.  If not for guidance from my parents and some knowledge I had learned in school I would have been lost.  A lot of students do not have the luxury to lean on their parents for this knowledge, because many of them may not know a lot about these topics.  Having more background information on these topics, and gaining a better understanding of them could have huge benefits for our students and their financial stability in their future.  Many of these skills, even ones as simple as planning a budget based on a fixed income, should be essential skills that our students learn and become familiar with to help them with real life practical applications.  What do you think, should we invest more time in teaching our students to be more financially literate?


  1. I couldn't agree more with the statements held above. In an age where the consumer market is the be all and end all, our spending habits as a society have increases tenfold over the past 50 years. Not only are marketing companies coming out with bigger and better ideas for getting you to spend your money, the banks are also making it that much easier for these transactions to occur. Case in point the debit/credit card tap system. No pins required. Just wave your magic piece of plastic and voila, instant purchase, and equally instant withdrawal. Another demon in disguise is the online shopping industry which has revolutionized the way we purchase products. I don’t think a single person I know has not bought something on amazon. The point to be made here is, with consumerism at its all-time high and the ease/speed at which we can attain goods, it’s easy for an adult (who should have a sense of their financial affairs) to spend, spend, spend and not even know how it’s affecting their total net worth. Now picture a student without any financial knowledge at all getting their first visa card, or going off to school for the first time. These kids are set up for failure. My mother is a banker and she used to tell me stories about students coming in and applying for credit cards with $0 dollars to their name. She would politely try and change their mind on the subject despite her sales quota being shot in the foot. It just didn’t make any sense. I am so grateful she taught me good financial habits early on, but for those without the luck of picking up this knowledge either from a parent, relative, or friend, where are they to go to get it? I think this is one of the, if not the most important subject matters we should be talking to our kids about in education, especially in later highs school years. After all isn’t the whole reason why we go to school is to learn things, grow up and apply them in a successful manner to make money? If it was up to be I would have a whole curriculum developed for teaching financial literacy. I would teach it as a term class, for half a semester like civics and career studies is now. To be honest matching it back to back with the career studies curriculum would make for an ideal full semester course that prepares the students thinking about the future and how to start building good financial habits to ensure whatever future they choose it be successful.

  2. I hear this concern a lot about math in schools and would like to note that there are a few courses that teaches financial literacy to Ontario secondary school students. Two courses, MEL4E and MEL3E, are Mathematics for Everyday life. They teach about personal finance and topics such as investing, interest, setting budgets, filling out tax forms, etc. More information can be found in the Ontario curriculum documents.

    In addition, two college courses MAP4C and MBF3C have a specific unit on personal finance that deals the following big ideas: 1. compare simple and compound interest, relate compound interest to exponential growth, and solve
    problems involving compound interest;
    2. compare services available from financial institutions, and solve problems involving the cost of making purchases on credit;
    3. interpret information about owning and operating a vehicle, and solve problems involving the associated costs.

    So the issue doesn't seem to be a lack of courses or information, but a lack of students taking these courses.

    In my own high school experience, I did not take any course that dealt with financial literacy. Instead, I took the advanced functions and other university level courses because I planned on going to university. However, I an able to fill out tax forms and understand interest payments because I chose to seek out the information myself. I would have been very frustrated if I was forced to learn about budgeting or insurance during school because it was something that I could easily understand and teach myself.
    That being said, It's not as easy for all students, and I don't think many students know that there is a course being offered to teach them financial literacy. They may also have taken the required three math classes and chosen not to take anther extra math in their senior year. It's also possible that students do not understand the importance of financial literacy and figure that it's information that they don't need. Either way, I think more students need to be informed about the senior level math programs and how they are applicable to their lives outside of school. Also, more students should be encouraged to take the MEL or other senior college courses. Math education does not have to end after the required three courses.